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FG, businesses need stronger partnership to solve the poverty challenge – Chairman BUA Group

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Chairman BUA Group

Alhaji Abdul Samad Rabiu, the Executive Chairman of BUA Group, a highly diversified and fast growing conglomerate, is an industrialist and philanthropist committed to the Federal Government’s vision of lifting millions of Nigerian citizens out of poverty through strategic investments in key sectors of the economy. To ensure Nigeria remains a preferred destination for more Foreign Direct Investments, Rabiu is partnering several development finance agencies across the world to create jobs for Nigerian youths while prioritising investment in infrastructure  as game changer for the country.

As Chairman of Nigeria -France Business Council, Rabiu was among the Federal Government’s high level delegation that accompanied President Muhammadu Buhari to the maiden Nigerian International Partnership Forum in Paris, France on November 10, 2021, where the nation made a strong case for more investments from France and the global business community.

He spoke to Daily Sun on the sidelines of the Forum attended by top government officials and private sector business leaders from both countries.

BUA Cement was incorporated in 2008 and commenced operations in the same year through its floating cement terminals, ‘BUA Cement 1’, designed specifically for bulk and bag cement unloading.

In 2009 BUA Group acquired the Cement Company of Northern Nigeria, CCNN (Sokoto Cement) and the Edo Cement Company to boost and increase its metric tonnes of annual cement production in the country.

In the second quarter of 2015, the company signed a contract with FLSmidth for a 3 million mtpa new production line in Edo Cement to be sited at Obu, Edo state.

It went  further  in 2020, to consolidate its cement operations by listing BUA Cement Plc on the Nigerian Stock Exchange with a total combined installed capacity of 8million mtpa and a market capitalisation of N1.18trillon (US$3.3bn), making it the second largest cement producer in the Nigerian market and the largest cement producer in the North Western region of the country.

He spoke on several issues bordering on investments, infrastructure and how Nigerian can overcome its current economic challenges

Excerpts

Why Nigeria International Partnership Forum is important to Nigeria

You could recall that recently in Paris, France, the French President Mr Emmanuel Macron, inaugurated the first Nigeria- France Business Council and that Council has berthed major partnerships between French and Nigerian businesses in the past few months in different areas such as manufacturing, telecoms, healthcare amongst many others.

We have also seen partnerships at the National and Sub-National levels and various state governments are benefitting from these partnerships with the support of the French agencies and MDAs in Nigeria especially in the area of mining, agriculture amongst others. This comes as a positive news and I believe that if partnerships like these can be replicated in our relationships with other countries, Nigerian will be able to attract more investments that create more jobs for our people.

What opportunities do you see in these partnerships for Nigeria

I see numerous opportunities for cross border partnerships for Nigeria and Africa as a continent and very strategic to this is in the infrastructural space. Increasing our investments in infrastructure, creating access between borders and encouraging the free movement of goods and services under the AfCFTA agreement will rapidly make our supply chains more efficient. This would lead to a more robust trade among Africans and will make new industries emerge. Above all such partnerships will boost intra-African collaboration and all of these will ensure that Nigerians  and Africans are better off.

We also need to see more significant partnerships between the African private sector and government and developed financed institutions to fast track growth and I believe that conversations will arise in that regard while we also challenge our approach towards the future of Nigeria and African continent.

Challenges facing Nigerian entrepreneurs

There is no country in the world without one challenge or the other and yet they have continued to find ways round it to make progress.

However, for Nigeria and African governments to make progress, there is need for them to increase investments in the infrastructure space and also ensure that they continue to work together on issues of poverty, economic instability, industrialisation and infrastructure development. The reason for this collaboration is to ensure that our future generations can compete effectively in terms of the aforementioned sectors among our peers, and it is our responsibility to create the enabling environment for that to happen.

What FG can do to strengthen private sector entrepreneurs

We are here to support not only members of the Nigerian- France Business Council, but also anybody who wants to do business in Nigeria and as the Minister of Foreign Affairs had said earlier, there are a lot of things that have begun to happen as regards ease of doing business and I believe we will make a lot of progress going forward.

I also believe that Nigeria is the next frontier economy. As the biggest economy in Africa, with almost 200 million people and diverse natural deposits, there are opportunities because there is nothing we do not have in Nigeria. In the midst of all these, we have the resources, the people, the land, water and agriculture is a big thing in Nigeria.  In mining we are doing very well and so there are so many opportunities hence the need to see how we can harness the resources.

If you look at the mining and the cement sector and see what we are doing, you will realise that we are trying to create more opportunities as Nigeria is sitting on tons of different types of resources . So it is just important that we get the right partners to work together with us and I believe Nigeria is the best destination for investments and so I look forward to seeing a huge change in the Nigerian landscape.

So l see a lot of opportunities and that gives us access to our French partners and we are excited to chair this council to try and bring countries together to be able to harness and work on the opportunities Nigeria has. Being the biggest market, I believe there is so much we can do if we can gather the right partners.

How insecurity is affecting businesses

Security is a worldwide issue as we all know and fortunately our governments especially the Nigerian government are doing everything possible to make sure that they address these security issues. So I believe that in a matter of time our insecurity challenge will be a thing of the past especially give our commitment to work together.

Efforts to increase membership of Nigerian French Business Council

We are trying to get more members and working together with the council to be able to bring in new members from Nigeria and France to boost and foster the members of the council. Today as you can see, we have more Nigerian private sector business leaders in our midst to support the Programme we are holding and we are looking forward to get more members to support us grow bigger and achieve our mission which is to make Nigeria a world class investment destination.

About BUA refinery

In 2020 amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, we had committed ourselves to ensuring that our country ends this practice of massive importation of refined petroleum products from overseas refiners. This led BUA Group into signing an agreement with Axens of France for the supply of process technologies for our upcoming 10 million tonnes per annum megarefinery and petrochemicals facility to be sited in Akwa Ibom, Nigeria.

This multibillion dollar integrated 200,000 bpd refinery and petrochemical plant aims at producing Euro-V fuels and Polypropylene for our domestic and regional markets.

We chose Axens to drive the process after a comprehensive evaluation process, due to its advanced technology licenses, basic engineering, catalysts & adsorbents, proprietary equipment, training and technical services. The landmark agreement was signed between us and the CEO of Axens, Jean Sentenac, in a ceremony presided over by France’s Minister Delegate for Foreign Trade and Economic Attractiveness, Franck Riester.

The 10million tonnes per annum refinery & petrochemicals project is in line with our vision to develop local capacity in key industries where we can add most value and where raw materials can be sourced locally.

When completed, the RFCC-based complex will produce high-quality gasoline, diesel, jet fuel that meet Euro-V specifications for the Nigerian market and the larger West African region.

In addition, it will produce propylene, an essential component for the petrochemical industry used in polypropylene-based plastics and packaging industries.

One advantage of this project is that it will help in reducing Nigeria’s dependence on imported fuels and petrochemicals.

This important to us because it is in the DNA of BUA Group to create efficient, innovative and sustainable businesses that will ultimately impact the lives of our people.

Look at our cement plants, they remain the most sustainable in Nigeria and same for  our sugar plants.

Expanding our cement footprint

You could recall that shortly after the merger of Kalambaina Cement Company and Cement Company of Northern Nigeria where we assumed majority stakes in the enlarged company, BUA Group signed another

contract with world’s renowned cement manufacturing company, CBMI, for the construction of a new 3million metric tonnes per annum Kalambaina Cement Line 2 in Sokoto State, North West Nigeria.

This was barely 90 days after the completion of another 3million MTPA BUA Obu Cement line 2 in Okpella, Edo State, Southern Nigeria and 7 months after the commissioning of its 1.5million MTPA Kalambaina Cement Plant line 1 in Sokoto state thus bringing our total installed capacity to 11million MTPA by the time we complete the new project.

The construction of the new 3million mtpa kalambaina line was in line with our strategic midterm expansion programme, because we know the Nigerian market is still greatly underserved and with the projected growth in major infrastructure projects and spending over the next few years, it is important that local manufacturers are able to scale up effectively to meet current and projected

demand.

It is also important to know that this partnership between BUA and Sinoma CBMI is not the first as they were also responsible for constructing the first BUA Kalambaina plant in Sokoto State.

We are very confident in that transaction because we know that Sinoma CBMI possesses the necessary technical expertise given its track records in deploying cement plants across the world.

Our strategic cement expansion programme focusing on key regional and export markets has seen us become the second largest producer of cement by volume in Nigeria. It also consolidates leadership positions in the North West, South South and South East Markets of Nigeria. “We will continue to deliver quality products which has earned us the ‘King of Strength ised company on the Stock Exchange became possible after the Security and Exchange Commission approved the merger of the Cement Company of Northern Nigeria Plc with BUA’s Kalambaina Cement Company Limited of Nigeria.

With that consolidation, BUA Group’s current cement assets now include the 6million MTPA Obu Cement I & II plants in Okpella, Edo State, the 500,000mtpa Edo Cement Plant, the 1.5million MTPA Kalambaina Cement Plant and the 500,000 Sokoto Cement Plant. The Group also owns over 90 percent stake in the publicly listed Cement Company of Northern Nigeria Plc and is widely acclaimed for its high capacity utilisation, efficiency and quality of its products.

About Abdul Samad Rabiu Initiative (ASR Africa)

The Abdul Samad Rabiu ASR Initiative is the key driver of Group’s Corporate Social Responsibility objective and brainchild of the BUA Group aimed at supporting social development strategies of governments in Nigeria and across Africa.

When ASR Africa initiative began, we had set aside $100 million yearly for various interventions in health, education and social development.

However in the first nine months, we have demonstrated how passionate we are about social impact and development especially in the areas of healthcare delivery, education, social development, and sustainable infrastructure across the country and Africa.

The Abdul Samad Rabiu Africa Initiative (ASR Africa) was established in April 2021 to provide sustainable, impact-based homegrown solutions to developmental issues affecting Health, Education and Social Development within Africa.

The ASR Africa Initiative is focused mainly on Education, Health and Social Development in Africa to equip educational facilities, researchers, healthcare practitioners and community-level service providers while also supporting efforts of various levels of government in Nigeria and Sub-Saharan Africa in the same direction.

Against this backdrop, we have listed the University of Nigeria, Nsukka; University of Maiduguri; University of Ilorin; University of Ibadan, and University of Benin among beneficiaries of N1billion each in the first cohort of the intervention grant.

In view of this and starting immediately, we intend to be on ground to commence the project. We have also continued to support other five universities as they identify their priority projects with our team to fast-track the project initiation.

It is our belief at the ASR Africa Initiative that this support will go a long way in bridging the infrastructure deficit in education within Nigeria and other African countries in our cohort. We are excited about the endless possibilities that lie ahead of Africa and because the time for Nigeria and Africa is now and business development is nothing without citizens’ development.

So we look forward to commencing work to build for the benefit of Africa’s children and its future.

Already, the ASR Africa Initiative has provided a grant of N1billion to Ahmadu Bello University as part of its yearly $100million ASR Africa Fund for Social Development & Renewal. We believe the grant will go a long way towards the provision of a Hostel and Department Building as identified by the University.

We have also awarded the Ogun State Government the sum of N2.5billion, Africa Tertiary Healthcare Systems Support grant towards the construction of a Mother & Child Hospital at the state-owned Olabisi Onabanjo University.

The N2.5billion grant, which we presented to the Ogun State Governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun at a ceremony in Abeokuta, was also drawn from the $100mil-lion annual ASR Africa Fund for Social Develop-ment and Renewal.

The grant was part of efforts of BUA Group to give back to Nigeria and the Africa continent for their patronage and support over the years.

The state-focused Tertiary Healthcare Systems Support Grant was awarded to Ogun State and 3 others in 2021 in recognition of their current efforts in delivering quality healthcare services and infrastructure within those states.

We believe that upon completion, the N2.5billion ASR Africa Maternal & Child Hospital will boost tertiary healthcare delivery system, train adequate personnel, and drastically reduce maternal and child mortality rates in Ogun state.”,

Similarly the Edo State Government has received a grant of N2.5billion towards equipping of the New Stella Obasanjo Hospital in Benin City currently being reconfigured, upgraded and expanded to a 250-bed specialist hospital.

The donation makes Edo State the fourth state after Sokoto, Ogun and Kwara states to receive a N2.5billion grant from ASR Africa’s N10billion Tertiary Healthcare Systems Support Grants Scheme for 2021 drawn from the Annual ASR Africa $100million Fund for Social Development and Renewal.

Gift to Nigeria

BUA Group last November also donated and handed over a newly built 150-bed hospital valued at over N4billion to the Nigerian Police in Abuja. The hospital, which is the first donation of its kind to the Nigerian Police, is called the “ASR Africa Police National Reference Hospital, Abuja. It was developed at a cost of N4billion with funding drawn from the annual $100million ASR Africa Fund for Social Development and Renewal.

Footprints across Africa

On the African continent and in line with our mandate, ASR Africa has extended support to the Ghanaian Government, through its Ministry of Education, a $3 million education infrastructure support grant from (ASR Africa).

The grant will be drawn from ASR Africa’s annual $100 million Africa Fund for Social Development and Renewal and was announced during the presentation of the letter of award to the Ghanaian Government at the Jubilee House in Accra, recently.

The award was significant because Ghana is also the first African country beneficiary of an ASR Africa grant after Nigeria.

We believe this $3 million ASR Africa education infrastructure grant will go a long way in supporting the eradication of ‘schools under trees’ across the country whilst developing primary education infrastructure across the country.

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Capital investments: FG woos venture capitalists

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Ogbonnaya Onu

The minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Dr. Ogbonnaya onu has called on entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and the business community to invest more capital, innovation and ideas into the development of science, technology and innovation in Nigeria.

The minister made the call during a breakfast meeting with Nigerian entrepreneurs in Lagos at the weekend.

The breakfast meeting between the Federal government and entrepreneurs/captains of industries is to create synergy on how more investment through the private sector can be utilized for the overall development of Science, Technology and Innovation for Nigeria’s socio-economic benefit.

Dr. Onu said that efforts of the Federal government to grow STI in the country haven’t been enough and the need for venture capitalists is crucial to the speedy development of the sector.

“Venture capitalists in the technologically developed countries, play the very important role of transforming ideas into goods, by taking the necessary risks. In the absence of venture capitalists, we need to involve our top rated entrepreneurs who are major risk takers in the development process. For so long we have been dealing with manufacturers, but we need to utilize the risk bearers who will constitute the major off-takers of the products of scientific research and innovation activities by our scientists all over the country”, he said.

The Minister further explained to the entrepreneurs that necessary legal and policy framework have been laid out to create the necessary conducive environment.

According to Dr. Onu, the business community is the most formidable member of the STI Ecosystem. In his words; “I am convinced that you constitute the most formidable member of the STI Ecosystem, and hence provide the best mechanism to transform existing research and development breakthroughs and findings to wealth through commercialization for industrial and services application.”

Dr. Onu informed the business community that the Ministry has been reformed to coordinate innovation activities in the country, adding that for the first time since independence all regulatory bodies in the country brought together, to ensure Nigerian goods and services are of global standards.

The Minister of state for Science, Technology and Innovation, Barr. Mohammed Abdullahi, said that the Ministry is looking forward to leverage on their wealth of experience in businesses towards better application of scientific research and development outcomes to value addition in Nigerian enterprises.

He added that All the Ministries agencies are ready to exhibit some of their R&D outcomes and breakthroughs.

Barr. Abdullahi noted that the agencies are expecting know their needs and look for best possible ways on how they can collaborate to achieve results. He added that they were open to receive advisory notes that would help them serve the general public better.

 Business guru, Pascal Dozie, who delivered a speech titled, “Building Strategic Partnership between Science, Technology and Innovation community and Nigerian Entrepreneurs”, said that the essence of the meeting was to foster effective collaboration among the critical stakeholders within the STI ecosystem that will lead to significant inclusive development and growth of Nigeria.

He expressed optimism that a robust framework for full commercialization of key innovations can be achieved. 

He noted the following points to ensure meaningful impact and sustainability of the objective:  The framework should be properly developed to ensure that the interests of the different stakeholders such as financiers, the innovators, regulators, communities should be properly considered to ensure sustainable and beneficial collaboration and outcomes; due to the diverse nature of innovations from various research institutes, it is important to do a proper segmentation and mapping of the innovations along sectorial lines.

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Nigeria can take lead for Electric Vehicles in Africa – Promise Emmanuel

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Promise Emmanuel

Promise Emmanuel, the Chief Press Secretary to the Deputy Governor of Kogi State, Chief Edward Onoja on Saturday, declared that Nigeria can take the lead for Electric Vehicles (EVs) in Africa.

Emmanuel made the declaration while delivering a presentation at TEDxBudon in Lokoja on the topic: The Nigerian Automobile Industry: The future of Electric Cars.

Emmanuel who is popularly known as ‘Kogi Rebel’ with the Instagram handle, @Kogi_rebel, stated that Nigeria is a very important market where EVs can thrive.

His words: ”As a country, Nigeria can take the lead for Electric Vehicles in Africa. But the market has not kickstarted because of lack of policy and regulation. Nigeria still has key structural issues that prevent the mass adoption of EVs.”

On how the government can create a suitable and holistic policy that will create the enabling environment for electric cars to be produced in the country, Emmanuel said:

”For the government to do this, there are several aspects of the Electric Vehicle Ecosystem and value chain that must be taken into consideration.

”There need to be sufficient and workable charging stations put in place before people buy EVs. Investors also need to know that there is a demand for EVs before they invest in the construction of charging stations across the country. Right now, there are too few EVs in the country to convince investors to key in.

”Another issue that can’t be overlooked is the lack of power supply. According to the US Department of Energy, most EV charging happens at home and not at the designated charging stations. So, how will Nigeria adopt the use of electric vehicles?

”Nigeria intends to adopt the fleet method of adoption of EVs, which involves individuals or businesses buying them and investing in charging stations. We have seen this with a few companies.

”This fleeting idea has been adopted by GIG logistics and delivery company, with its recent launch of an EV charging station in Gbagada, Lagos State. This fleeting system is beneficial as it will gradually encourage people to adapt to EVs before bigger investments.

”Nigerians also need answers to how much time and electricity it takes to fully charge these cars. For example, the Kona takes 10 hours to charge and has a power rating of the 7.2-kilowatt hour. This is a lot depending on the different parts of Nigeria. It can also be cheaper than fueling a petrol-powered car.

”But Nigeria has been known over the years to have a bad track record on electricity. Many areas and states can’t boast of 12 hours power supply, electricity isn’t constant and also very expensive. How then can Nigerians charge their EVs?

”For this mass adoption to be possible, there is a need for the government and investors can boost renewable energy in form of solar energy and make it affordable for people.”

He added that electric vehicles will be of great benefit to the country, saying:

”If adopted, will increase the quality of air, which in turn will improve the quality of life in Nigeria through reduced emission of Carbon monoxide gas from the exhaust pipes in cars.

”The advantage of electric vehicles will relieve the country of problems caused by fuel-powered cars including the increasing cost of petroleum.”

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Federal Government laments $1.3bn spent annually on dairy importation – Abubakar

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The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr Muhammad Abubakar, has maintained that the Federal Government’s National Livestock Transformation Plan, NLTP, is set to close dairy importation gap.

Abubakar stated this at a virtual meeting 36 State Commissioners of Agriculture and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, along with other stakeholders on the State Level Project Socialization on Livestock Productivity and Resilience Support Project (L-PRES).

The Minister, represented by the Director, Animal Husbandry Services Department in the Ministry, Winnie Lai-Solarin, stated that the L-PRES programme is targeted to address low investment in the livestock sub-sector over the years.

He said: “A project to support the actualization of the NLTP is targeted at addressing the age-long low investment profile in the sub-sector to improve livestock productivity, resilience, and commercialization of selected value chains, as well as strengthen the country’s capacity to respond to crisis or emergency.

“The L-PRES project would facilitate the achievement of food security, reduce incessant conflict between farmers and herdsmen and cushion the effect of a COVID-19 Pandemic on the livestock industry in alignment with Government’s strategies and policies including, the promotion of climate smart livestock production and productivity, expansion of rural economy for employment and income generation, promotion of exports and reduction in the importation of livestock and livestock products, and Involvement empowerment of women, youth, and vulnerable people.

“The successful implementation of the National Livestock Transformation Plan will close importation gaps and address other challenges to livestock development in Nigeria.”

However, the Minister lamented $1.3 billion spent annually on dairy importation into the country.

“It is glaring with the current priorities in the World’s food supply systems, that the next issues of focus will be animal protein supply chains and its nexus with global welfare and security.

“Nations’ ability to provide good quality and affordable animal proteins has not only been linked with their pecuniary status, it has been confirmed to have direct relationship with human capital development and intellectual quotient.

“Although Nigeria Livestock subsector provides about 36.5% of the total protein intake of Nigerians, it also contributes about 8-10% of the Agricultural GDP and 5% of the National Gross Domestic Product and has been a key contributor to poverty reduction, especially in rural areas.”

“We are yet to take full advantage of the regional markets under our influence and have in recent times spent huge amounts of forex on importation of products that can be produced effortlessly in the country.

“Importation of dairy products where we spend about US$1.3 Billion annually according to the CBN (2019) is a prominent example of the above narrative”, he said.

Earlier in a goodwill message, the Country Director, World Bank, Dr Shubham Chadhri, said that the programme is designed to realize the full potential in the livestock sector in Nigeria, and urged state governments to key into it, while commending the Buhari-led administration for initiating the NLTP and its implementation.

Chadhri further stated that if the NLTP is properly implemented and sustained across the nation it would go a long way to reduce poverty, unemployment, and boost growth of the nation’s GDP.

He also assured World Bank’s commitment to partner with the Federal and State Governments for the realization of the L-PRES project in Nigeria.

Meanwhile, in a presentation on update of the L-PRES Project Preparation, Director, Animal Husbandry Services Department, Dr Winnie Lai- Solarin, made it known to State Commissioners and participants that the Federal Government and the World Bank are ready to have the project takeoff in 2022.

She also appealed to the State Governments to facilitate the project implementation by increasing their budgetary allocation for livestock development, giving adequate state counterpart financing and providing office spaces, vehicles, and other basic facilities to demonstrate their commitment and readiness to implement the project in their states.

According to her, 28 States and the FCT have expressed interest in the project, appealing to others to take advantage and identify with the project.

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